Stay weather aware Thursday

Kansas City Zoo staff takes winter weather precautions for animals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- You often hear about protecting your plants and pets during the winter season but there is another population in the metro that requires protection.

Tim Steinmetz is the senior curator at the Kansas City Zoo. His responsibility, among many, includes ensuring the 1,900 animals at the zoo are well taken care of year-round.

“If it is below freezing, we have guidelines that they have to have access to heat and some animals, when it’s this cold, just in their heated barns,” said Steinmetz.

The zoo has several buildings attached to different exhibits that allows animals to be outside and indoors; those buildings are heated. There are also large barns located around the 202 acre property.

“Some animals we have, when it’s this cold, they’re just in their heated barns,” said Steinmetz.

While the penguins, polar bear and river otters love winter weather, Steinmetz said the giraffes are most sensitive to it.

“The giraffe species that we have are called Masai and they’re from a specific region in Africa,” said Steinmetz. “We give them access to their barn and allow them to be outside at 50 degrees and access to their exhibit at 60 degrees.”

The four giraffes, along with many of the African animals at the zoo, spend much of winter inside barns. However, it’s dependent on the weather.

“When they’re inside we make sure that we’re enriching them,” said Steinmetz. “Most of what we have here at the zoo is on exhibit all the time.”

Steinmetz said if it’s not below freezing many of the animals will be outside.

According to Steinmetz, the African lions at the zoo actually enjoy the cool temperatures and can sometimes been seen playing in the snow; some of the fake rocks in the exhibit are also heated.

The zoo also has someone on duty 24/7 monitoring that the heat is properly working in buildings where the animals are housed, according to Steinmetz.